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Diocese of Arlington and parishes form a green network

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Inspired by “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” representatives from eight parishes and the diocese have formed the Care for Creation Network. The members hope to be a resource for one another and encourage other parishes to form similar creation care teams. 

“Having a diocesan-level organization creates that legitimacy and attention,” said Kim Young, a member of the Creation Care Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Burke. “ ‘Laudato Si’ is not only something that’s nice to do, but it's an obligation of the Catholic faith.”

The parishes that already have creation care groups in place and are in the network include Good Shepherd Church in Alexandria; Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Vienna; St. Mark Church in Vienna; St. John Neumann Church in Reston; St. Francis of Assisi Church in Triangle; Our Lady, Queen of Peace Church in Arlington; St. Thomas à Becket Church in Reston; and Nativity.
The network came together late last year, and the group’s second meeting will be held around Earth Day, April 22. Two members of the diocesan Office of Planning, Construction and Facilities will attend, along with presenters from Catholic Energies, a program of the Catholic Climate Covenant. 

“There's so much cross fertilization in terms of discussion but also the opportunity for education,” said Carla Walsh, the network’s diocesan representative and a coordinator for Catholic Charities.  

As with many other groups, Nativity’s creation care team was reinvigorated by the release of Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical. Their newest initiative is advising leaders of other parish ministries on ways to “green” their activities. 

“So much of it is just training your eyes to see differently,” said Walsh. While all the teams encourage parishioners to “green” their own homes, changing the culture of a parish has a large impact as well. “It’s a ripple going out,” said Walsh. 

The Care for Our Common Home Ministry at St. John Neumann has hosted speakers on natural burials, toured a recycling facility and held a fair trade sale during Advent. They offer to wash dishes at parish events to reduce paper and plastic waste. 

At Our Lady of Good Counsel, parishioners were inspired by the school’s environmental work, led by science teacher Samantha Danielli, to form the Green Initiative Program. Thomas White, pastoral associate, is measuring carbon dioxide levels in the parish office to assess how many and what kind of plants would be best to bring into the space. Recently, the church refurbished its retention pond, which reduces storm water runoff. They also switched to LED lights, which cut down on power costs. 

Many greening strategies have an economic benefit for schools and parishes, but it’s about more than money, said Bob More, a member of the St. John Neumann ministry and a co-chair, along with Walsh, of the Care for Creation Network. 

“The spirituality component is really paramount in what we’re doing here,” he said. “There can be a lot of practical benefits, but we’re coming from a place of our responsibility for God’s creation and to care for the poor and vulnerable. That’s really what motivates us.”

“I try to look at what we have as a gift from God,” said Oblate Father John Dolan, parochial vicar of Our Lady of Good Counsel. “It’s not a gift that we are going to consume but a gift we are stewards of, to be handed on to the next generation.”

Many of the network’s members have spent their professional lives working in environmental fields. More was an attorney with the Department of Interior. White ran an airplane equipment company that was the largest polluter in Loudoun County until he implemented changes that drastically cut down the amount of chemicals released into the air. Young is a naturalist for the Fairfax County Park Authority. 

“I come from it from an environmental stewardship background, but (before) studying and understanding ‘Laudato Si,’ ” I had never really tied my faith together with my daily activities,” said Young. “This ministry has really been a way to strength both the way I live my life and the way I live my faith.”

Find out more


To get more information about the diocesan Care for Creation Network or about starting a team at your parish, contact Carla Walsh at cwalsh@ccda.net or call 703/841-3839.



© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018